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Friday, 19 August 2011

Nine opposition parties call all-India protest on Aug 23 against corruption

NEW DELHI: With government feeling the heat generated by the Anna Hazare agitation, it will face a coordinated attack from the opposition that has called for an all-India protest on August 23.

Nine "non-UPA, non-NDA" parties are also contemplating seeking withdrawal of the official Lokpal bill that is with the standing committee as the parties are looking for space in the anti-corruption stir dominated by the activist group.

Opposition parties have been careful in planning separate agitations but while the nine-party group will hold demonstrations on August 23, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance may separately declare its plans for a protest on the same day.

The call for a nation-wide protest was first given by NDA convenor and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav. But NDA is still to formalize its view with Yadav saying, "We are waiting for an opportune time."

The nine-party group discussed options like jail bharo and while it has announced a stir, one of the participants has declared that it won't be part of a Bharat bandh. "We feel the protest can be staged at Delhi. At the state level, parties in power cannot call for a bandh," BJD's Bhartruhari Mahtab said.

The meeting was attended by CPM's Prakash Karat, CPI's A B Bardhan, Forward Bloc's Debabrata Biswas, RSP's Abani Roy, TDP's N Chandrababu Naidu, JD(S)'s H D Deve Gowda, Ajit Singh of RLD, M Thambidurai of AIADMK and Mahtab.

Karat did not see the alliance of interests as a possible Third Front. "These are issue-based support. We have come together in the past also," he said. Asked if the protest by nine parties and NDA were taking place together, Karat said, "NDA is also opposed to provisions of Lokpal bill. All opposition parties are organizing their own agitational programmes."

After the meeting of the nine parties, Karat said, "Government's version of Lokpal bill is unacceptable. Such a legislation will not establish a strong Lokpal authority." Leaders of the nine parties also said UPA government had not taken any serious steps to curb high level corruption.

They condemned the arrest of Anna Hazare and others and said this was an "attack on the democratic rights of citizens to conduct peaceful protests".

"There are increasing restrictions on the right to assemble and the right to conduct protests in Delhi. We demand lifting of curbs," Karat said after the meeting.

The CPM general secretary said the meeting also discussed corruption in judiciary and felt that the judicial accountability law, to be passed by Parliament, should include the creation of a National Judicial Commission to deal with such issues. "The present (judicial accountability) bill is also insufficient," Karat said, adding that electoral reforms to curb money power and criminality in elections was also discussed.


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